Child Protection in the Early Years – Eunice Lumsden

Young children are among the most vulnerable people in our community. Protected, cherished and encouraged to explore their world, they will flourish, but exploited, molested or subjected to violence or neglect, they will struggle to do so. Because Early Years practitioners relate so closely and for so many hours with young children, they are key professionals when it comes to safeguarding.
The essential role of Early Years staff was brought home to me during the many years I worked at the front line of child protection. I observed that they are the experts in communicating with pre-verbal children or those with limited verbal skills. Furthermore, every day they see lots of happy, thriving children, and so instinctively recognise one who, despite a cheerful façade, is neglected and suffering. Those involved in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) can appear approachable and non-threatening, so parents experiencing difficulties with their children will feel comfortable confiding in them. However, too often in the past staff engaged in ECEC had difficulty expressing their concerns or making their voices heard. I recall attending a case conference where the parents were absent.

The chairperson gave a young, female practitioner, introduced as a ‘nursery nurse’, very little opportunity to contribute, asking her to simply state whether the children attended nursery regularly. Before she could add anything else, the chairperson brusquely moved on to the other contributors. In the moments before the conference ended, the nursery nurse managed to mention that the mother had confided that she was pregnant again. Accordingly, just as everyone was preparing to leave, we all had to sit back down and spend another half an hour discussing the implications of this new development, given that it made many of our earlier recommendations irrelevant or inappropriate.
This example illustrates that while Early Years practitioners undoubtedly have superlative skills in observation, communication and in relating to young children and their families, some may need help and guidance to articulate their concerns or raise issues assertively with other professionals; Child Protection in the Early Years: A Practical Guide will assist with this. The book is designed to enhance basic knowledge of safeguarding and the impact of abuse on children’s development. It will help ensure practitioners know how to recognise, record and report concerns. Readers are given insights into the relevance of attachment theory, the significance of policy and procedures, and the importance of working with others. Finally, the creation of an environment that promotes the development of traumatised children is discussed. There are exercises, reflection points, case studies and practice points, all designed to help readers assimilate information while the material is presented in a highly readable form.
Child Protection in the Early Years will prove a valuable resource in providing those working in ECEC with the knowledge and guidance to help them take full advantage of their skills and understanding in order to safeguard children.

From the foreword by Dr Celia Doyle

Author Eunice Lumsden is Head of Early Years at the University of Northampton, UK. She is a registered social worker with over thirty years’ experience, specialising in children and families.


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Protecting Children and Adults from Abuse After Savile

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Marcus Erooga, author of  Protecting Children and Adults from Abuse After Savile and former Chair of NOTA, discusses the impact of the Jimmy Savile case in causing a stream of subsequent high-profile sexual offence allegations to appear.

It is human nature to want to identify casual links. If x is a consequence of y then our world becomes more comprehensible and somehow feels safer. Early in my career I was warned about the inherent dangers of making easy links when the Professor who was giving the research module of my MA, an eminent researcher himself, suggested that all research should be prefaced with “Isn’t it interesting that…”.

In that spirit… isn’t it interesting that since the death of Jimmy Savile in October 2011, there has been a seemingly unending stream of revelations about sexual abuse or at best inappropriate sexual behaviour by powerful people – mostly men? Difficult as it is to remember how such issues were perceived prior to the revelations about Savile following his death, it seems safe to say that nobody anticipated the astonishing series of events which began shortly afterward and seem likely to continue, in one form or another, for the foreseeable future.

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Relationship-Based Social Work, Second Edition

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Gillian Ruch, Danielle Turney and Adrian Ward have updated and revised Relationship-Based Social Work – the highly successful guide to relationship-based practice in social work. Gillian Ruch is Professor of Social Work and works in the Department of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Sussex. Danielle Turney is Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Director of the MSc in Advanced Social Work with Children and Families at the University of Bristol. Formerly Consultant Social Worker at the Tavistock Clinic in London, Adrian Ward has written and edited several books in the fields of residential care and therapeutic communities, social work and professional education.

Relationship-Based Social Work, Second Edition communicates the theory using illustrative case studies and offers a model for practice. This book will be an invaluable textbook for social work students, practitioners on post-qualifying courses and all social work professionals. Updated and expanded, it now includes increased coverage of anti-oppressive and diversity issues, service user perspectives and systemic approaches in social work.

The book explores the ranges of emotions that practitioners may encounter with service users, and covers working in both short-term and long-term professional relationships. It also outlines key skills, such as how to establish rapport, and explores systemic issues, such as building appropriate support systems for practice, management and leadership.

To read the contents, see the contributors, read the foreword and introduction, click here.

Rotherham abuse scandal: what was life like for a victim?

rotherhamOften described as the “biggest child protection scandal in UK history”, the organised child sexual exploitation in Rotherham saw around 1,400 children abused from 1997 – 2013 (according to the Jay Report). The scale of the child protection scandal has led professionals responsible for safeguarding children in other regions to recognise the extent of child abuse in their area and consider how to respond efficiently.

On the 25th July, we hosted an event at Kingston University to launch Child Sexual Exploitation after Rotherham, a book written by two whistleblowers of the case, Adele Gladman and Dr Angie Heal. Adele Gladman is an experienced safeguarding children trainer and consultant, and previously ran the research and development pilot funded by the Home Office which was referred to in both the Jay and Casey reports during the Rotherham case. Dr Angie Heal was a strategic analyst working for South Yorkshire police who has since contributed to Panorama documentaries. Both gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee for the Rotherham case in 2014 and they continue to assist with ongoing investigation and inquiries.

Also joining us on the day, we heard talks from Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Professor Alexis Jay OBE, author of the Independent Inquiry report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, and T, a survivor of Rotherham case.

Known as T to keep her identity private, this brave individual came to the seminar for this book in order to give a talk about what had happened to her. Coming from a large family, T spoke of her previously normal life before the abusive events that followed. In the recording below, you can listen to her talk about what life was like living through the abuse she encountered from such a young age, and the appalling trial that followed.

Read an extract from Learning from Baby P

shoesmith_learning-from-b_978-1-78592-003-5_colourjpg-webSharon Shoesmith has worked with children for almost 40 years in a career which culminated with her role as Director of Children’s Services in the London Borough of Haringey. She was in this role in 2007 at the time of death of Peter Connelly, also known as ‘Baby P’. Blamed for his death and unlawfully sacked, Sharon Shoesmith became the primary target of a public and press-led outcry in the aftermath of the case.

Click here to read an extract

Learning from Baby P is Shoesmith’s dispassionate analysis of the events which followed Peter Connelly’s death, documenting the responses of the media, politicians and the public whilst defending social workers against the scapegoating which happens so frequently in the aftermath of high profile child protection cases. She explores the psychological and emotional responses we share when faced with such horrifying cases of familial child homicide, and how a climate of fear and blame which follows such tragedies can lead to negative consequences for other children at risk of harm, and for the social workers striving to protect them. Sharon now works as a researcher, writer and public speaker in areas related to education, social care and public perception.

Learning from Baby P is a thought-provoking book aiming to deepen understanding and shed light on the difficult relationship between politics, the media and child protection.

 

There is no formula when it comes to tackling child neglect

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, but is hard to identify and address. Which is why Ruth Gardner decided to bring together a number of professional voices in her book Tackling Child Neglect, to look at the research, policy and practice involved in children’s services in the UK and the US. In this blog, Ruth shares her experience of working in children services over the years.
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Putting Black Children in the Centre of Safeguarding

It has become increasingly evident that black children and young people are facing victimisation in a context where their identities and experiences are marginalised and devalued. In this blog post authors and academics Claudia Bernard and Perlita Harris call attention to the lived experiences of black children in the child protection arena.

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How do we respond to children we consider need protecting?

Informed by her many years on the frontline and subsequent experience writing serious case reviews, Joanna Nicolas has identified the most common pitfalls in child protection cases in her latest book Practical Guide to Child Protection. In this blog, Joanna explores what kind of issues frontline workers need to focus on when faced with a long list of case reviews.

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It feels as though we as a country are at a crossroads as to what we consider to be child protection and how we respond to children we consider need protecting. There has also been seismic change in terms of the increasing recognition of child sexual exploitation and the impact that has on services. Child sexual exploitation usually involves victims who are teenagers – how do we work effectively with teenagers when they can just tell us to get stuffed – and is our child protection system as it stands effective for working with very vulnerable victims of child sexual exploitation? I remember a young person I was working with who would take part in a police video interview in the morning and talk about the abuse but then she would leave and later that day would be back with the gang. No one has all the answers and you cannot just lock these young people up.

There are those who are questioning whether our current system as a whole is fit for purpose. The Government is saying that there is to be an overhaul of how we protect our most vulnerable children. As well as this, at a time of great austerity, more and more children are living in poverty and there are those who are deeply concerned that the child protection system is being used in a wholly inappropriate way to deal with the consequences of austerity. On top of that, we have increasing obesity levels in children and so the debate goes about whether that should be dealt with in the child protection area and so it goes on.

While all of this goes on and cuts become greater and systems change and change again, those on the frontline have to keep their focus on the day-to-day job of protecting our most vulnerable children. In my professional lifetime I do not think there has been a harder time to do that, particularly as social workers can now be named by the media in some court cases, the Government is considering jail terms for professionals who do not report abuse, and almost daily you can read misleading and sometimes erroneous headlines about what social workers and other public sector workers have failed to do and how that has resulted in the death of, or serious injury to, a child.

With all of this in mind I wanted to write a book that focused purely on the practical. What do you do when faced with certain situations and what are the issues we need frontline workers to focus on?

For the last seven years I have been working on serious case reviews. There are common themes that arise from serious case reviews, such as agencies that have not worked well together, information that has not been shared, the parents/carers have issue around unmet mental health needs/substance misuse/domestic abuse, the child has become invisible, etc. I wanted to focus this book on those areas because what we learn from serious case reviews is that those are the areas we struggle with the most.

I am not an academic and this is not a textbook. I am a practitioner who has worked in the field of child protection for 20 years and so I wanted to write a practical guide. The aim of the book is to help frontline professionals with the work they are doing every single day.  My starting point is that when I qualified as a social worker, 20 years ago, no one ever told me what to do when you knock on someone’s door and they tell you to f*** off, and there have been so many situations over the years where I have asked myself ‘what on earth do I do now?’ The father answering the door in his Y-fronts was a dilemma. He insisted I come in and explained his near-nakedness by saying it was so hot, but I resisted and stood firmly on the doorstep. I had to make it very clear I was not going to enter the home until he was dressed – but you don’t learn that at university! I hope that is what this book will do, help you think about the practicalities.

We all need all the help we can get but there is never enough time to read everything we should, so I have created a book that you can dip in and out of, to help with the dilemma you are facing at the time. Just don’t make the mistake I did when a patronising father said to me many years ago, “Well how old are you, Missy?” and I heard myself reply, “I’m nearly 32…”

If this book helps one person it will be worth every hour I have worked on it and I hope that person will be you.

Joanna Nicolas has worked in social care for 23 years. She has worked as a residential social worker, a frontline child protection social worker and has been developing and delivering child protection training for her Local Safeguarding Children Board since 2006. She also develops and delivers training in the private and voluntary sector. She now leads on serious case reviews and works as an independent child protection consultant. She is an accredited lead reviewer in the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) Learning Together systems reviews model and has been leading these reviews since 2011, when the Government first piloted the model. Since 2008 Joanna has been a national commentator on issues around social work, child protection and serious case reviews. She is also the author of ‘Conducting The Home Visit In Child Protection’.

Learn more about Practical Guide to Child Protection.

Helping traumatised children let go of control

9781849057608 (1)In this extract from Helping Children Affected by Parental Substance Abuse, author Tonia Caselman talks about the importance of giving children and young adults a safe space where they can let go of control and shed their feelings of responsibility. Following an in-depth exploration of how victims of parental substance abuse feel about control and responsibility, you’ll find two activities that will help you carry out direct work on an individual and group level.

Read the extract now

 

You can find out more about the book, read reviews and order your copy here.

 

Three Steps to Improving the Safeguarding of Children

Ofsted’s October 2014 report on the outcomes of the first 33 inspections under their new framework showed that over two thirds of children’s services where either “inadequate” or “require improvement”. Offering a pragmatic and achievable approach to assisting services to build their capacity to meet public, political and professional expectations in his book The Common-Sense Guide to the Safeguarding of Children, author Terry McCarthy outlines his three-step approach to improving the safeguarding of children.

Social workers are expected to enable fundamental and sustained change with parents and carers who often have long-term and entrenched issues relating to their capability, behaviour and life choices. These most commonly concern alcohol and drug use, violence, criminal activity, learning disability, mental health problems and serious emotional difficulties. Often more than one of these elements needs to be addressed to ensure the safety and welfare of children. The challenge is made even more difficult by families often being unwelcoming or fearful of agencies’ involvement, leading to them being evasive or hostile.

Whilst most social workers are highly committed, these complexities, demands and expectations take their toll with many being overwhelmed, stressed and anxious. This can lead to low morale, uncertainty and poor confidence. The impact on the continuity and long term stability of services is often felt through high staff turnover, sickness and shortened careers. For those who do remain in practice the complexities can cause misjudgements, tunnel vision, lack of focus and ineffective practice with practitioners feeling unable to challenge situations or creatively engage with families. This can also lead to process driven practice which meets procedure and policy requirements, committing considerable energy and resources without necessarily leading to significant benefit to children.

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The Three Step approach considers how safeguarding agencies, particularly children’s services, can work within available resources to make a real difference. This does not require a major ground shift but rather can be achieved through the accumulative effect of a series of small, easily implemented measures.

Step one: Establish a culture which enables and leads 

This culture should identify how organisational values, attitudes and behaviours are needed to model good parenting. This includes having healthy relationships, good communication, clarity of purpose, conflict resolution, constructive use of authority and creative approaches. It is argued that the “managerial” approach, which focuses on procedure, giving instruction and monitoring compliance, is limited and unlikely to adequately inspire, support and lead practitioners through the highly complex challenge of identifying and address the mistreatment to children.

Step two: Develop a stable, skilled and confident workforce

This presumes that most social workers are reasonably clear about what should be done and why this is required to safeguard children, however often struggle with how they can bring about the required outcomes. Effective practice requires practitioners to be supported to develop focus, understand the complexities and address anxiety which can overwhelm them. The practitioner skills outlined in the book are an expansion of the Performance Capability Framework and it is argued that a blend of supervision, coaching, consultation and case auditing can create a learning environment where best practice is likely to flourish.

Step three: Enable families to change.

This sets out thirteen aspects of effective work with families to ensure that risks to children and the fundamental reasons for these are clearly understood, leading to effective planning which focuses on addressing solutions and ensuring real progress within reasonable timescales. This requires honest, effective and direct relationships with families and partner agencies including clarity about how meetings and involvement with the family and professionals ensure that key aspects of the plan are progressed.

 Terry McCarthy  is a qualified social worker with over 30 years’ experience in children’s services. Read more about The Common-Sense Guide to Improving the Safeguarding of Children here.